You wouldn’t think so, if you listen to the MSM all the live long day. As far as that goes, the MSM Narrative is that one or two aged Christians are all that stands between us and the Progressive Utopia of $15 an hour minimum wages and daily flights bringing in foreigners who will be able to vote from age 16 on. On the other hand, 84% of the American people back a ban on late-term abortions – including 69% of those who identify themselves as “pro-choice”. In other words, this increasingly Progressive America has some how or another managed to latch on to a key aspect of Conservatism – respect for the inalienable right to life enshrined in both our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. I fully expect a ban on late term abortions to happen before I die – and I expect that one day abortion will only be permitted when it really is crucial to save the life of the mother. The tide in America is set on pro-life. How did that happen?
Patience and charity played a huge roll. We can’t just change a person’s mind overnight. It takes a while – and you also can’t change a person’s mind if you’re being uncharitable to them…that is, condemning them, scorning them or otherwise indicating a distaste for them. While from time to time a rather zealous firebrand would come to the fore in the pro-life movement, it was pretty obvious that such people were (a) kinda shoved forward by an MSM which wanted people to think that pro-life people were like that and (b) they weren’t really representative of the pro-life movement. It was hard to characterize the pro-life movement as bad when it was almost always people quietly praying and offering counsel and assistance to women in need. It was also rather crucial that being pro-life was, is and always will be to be in favor of not just something good, but something so obviously good that even the most inattentive can see the merit of your case.
Another case of us winning is on the gun control debate. When I was a kid, it was the “thing” as much as being pro-choice was. Of course everyone wanted strict regulation of guns. But by being patient and being charitable and being in favor of something that is obviously good – the right of people to defend themselves – the right to bear arms movement has triumphed. Oh, to be sure, our Progressives are still keen to take away the guns – but they are just as keen to provide federally funded abortion on demand, too…but they won’t get it and they dare not speak their desire openly, because they know the debate is over and they lost. Only in the very deepest blue areas of the country can Progressives proclaim their desire to have taxpayers pay for abortion and to confiscate all weapons. On the national stage, they have to be in favor of “choice” in abortion and “common sense regulation” of weapons.
So, as we can see, conservatism can win – we can conserve things; the right to life and the right to keep and bear arms. We can also conserve things like property rights, the family and the free exercise of religion, as well – but only if we go about it with patience and charity and carefully selecting our issues so that we are defending what is obviously good. Leaving aside family and the free exercise of religion, let’s use property rights as a means of illustrating how we’re doing it wrong.
At bottom property rights are the fundamentally conservative thing in economic policy. The right of a person to own what he or she makes or inherits is what we’re supposed to be about. But what we do is essentially winding up defending money – we do it by defending capitalism, as a thing, and the net result is that in the public mind, we’re defending those who have bags of money. And the really irritating thing about that is that while we’re in the public mind defending the wealth of robber barons we’re actually defending the wealth of Progressive billionaires who use their money to undermine the things we actually must defend – property rights, the family and the free exercise of religion.
We can’t win the fight to save property as long as in the public mind we’re defending billionaires and multi-national corporations. In point of fact, someone who has billions of dollars and a corporation as large as, say, General Electric is a negation of property. General Electric is a behemoth making a few people very rich. A billionaire doesn’t have property like, say, a farmer or small retailer has property. A billionaire has investments and interests and wants to defend them – and will use his wealth to ensure special dealing for his investments and interests (and large corporations do the same). A farmer just wants his farm to work. A retailer just wants his store to be profitable. Do you see the difference?
To win the fight to save property rights, we have to champion those who actually have property – not those who have buckets of money. In fact, we have to stand athwart those with buckets of money…because a key thing for us to conserve, if we are indeed conservatives, is the bedrock, “small r” republican concept that any great concentration of power is a danger to the Republic. Large amounts of money under control of one person or a few people are dangerous concentrations of power…just as much as any large government bureaucracy. We have to be seen as curbing the power of billionaires and large corporations – and our battle ground would be best defending small business operators and other small property owners against the regulations of government, often done at the command of large corporations and billionaires who are trying to use government power to protect themselves.
What I’m talking about is well illustrated by a proposal from Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) to regulate soap – specifically, a requirement for soap makers to register with the FDA any time they change their ingredients. This will not adversely affect large soap manufacturers – they only rarely change their ingredients and the economies of scale allow them to easily absorb the cost of new regulations. But small soap makers who can’t buy ten tons of their ingredients at a time and, at any rate, might just decide to, say, put a little more of Ingredient A into their soap can’t afford the freight. The big soap manufacturers are entirely behind this proposal – from Procter and Gamble to Revlon and everything in between…because they know full well it will drive a lot of small competitors out of the market, thus increasing their profit margins. We should be taking up the banner of the small operators against the big players…people will see, easily, that we are on the side of the good guys. And we’ll make our point that property rights are something worthy. A battle over this – and similar battles that come up – will allow us to cast ourselves as the defender of the little guy…and will show up Progressives like Feinstein and Collins for what they are: tools of the rich.
Other things that are obviously good can be defended, as well. The family, for instance. Don’t get wrapped up too much in some of the debates currently raging. They are trivial. But in Nevada the governor recently signed a law which empowers families to control the education of their children (it has to do with Education Savings Accounts which allow parents to easily save money to pay for private education). That is obviously good – in defending such a thing as that, we’re defending the ability of strong, responsible parents to be deeply involved in their children’s education, rather than having faceless and corruptible bureaucrats decreeing from on high what sort of education the kids will get. The difference here is not in attacking the public school system, which only allows Progressives to absurdly (but effectively) paint us as anti-education – we’re not attacking anything; we’re just empowering people to do for themselves, if they want. And in doing this we’re also defending family, as a thing. We’re not saying what is a family, at all – we’re just saying that families have rights and privileges that are worthy of defense. And that is a winning way to approach it – because no matter how crazy it gets out there, most families will remain what they have always been…mom and pop and the kids. And in defending that, we’ll set the cultural stage for a revival of all the things which go along with strong, independent families. And into the bargain with our defense of strong, independent families is a death blow to Big Government: the more power we secure for families, the less power there necessarily will be for government to exercise. Think what happens to government mandates in education once, say, even 25% of the kids are being educated as their parents wish in institutions the government has no control over?
I guess if I had to nutshell it, the revival of a conservative America depends upon us finding the good things we want to defend, and then going out there an defending them without acrimony. People do wish to be fair and if we’re defending what is fair, we’re going to win.